by Genevieve Thiers, Founder and CEO of Sittercity.com
Even if you're considering a babysitter who is applying for her first sitting job, you should ask each candidate for references before you turn over your house keys and precious little handfuls.
The typical babysitter will have two references that have already agreed to serve as such in this hiring process. First-timers may use a parent or teacher, since they haven't yet had a chance to establish a relationship with an employer. Either way, the babysitter should provide you with both the phone number and email address of references so you can contact them easily (unless they happen to be, um, technologically impaired).
We understand that you might feel a little awkward calling a reference, so we're here to help you get more comfortable and familiar with the idea by offering our own tips and list of questions to guide the process.
THE PHONE CALL: INTRODUCTION
The first thing you'll want to do is introduce yourself and tell the reference why you are calling - don't forget to say that the babysitter referred you.
"Hi, this is Jane Smith. I'm calling because Susie SuperSitter listed you as a babysitting reference, and I was wondering if now was a good time to ask you a few questions about her personality and performance."
In rare cases, the reference might not be comfortable speaking to you or did not agree to be a reference. Note to self: this is probably not a good sign. If you're the benefit-of-the-doubt, I-believe-in-second-chances type, then contact the babysitter for another reference. Otherwise, remove her from the potential babysitters pile.
QUESTIONS FOR REFERENCES
If the reference seems happy to speak to you, here's a typical list of questions that you can ask to help gage your potential babysitter's talents. As a courtesy, try to keep your question brief.
- How well do you know Susie?
- In what capacity did she work for you?
- How long did she work for you?
- How would you describe her?
- What are her best qualities?
- What are her worst qualities?
- How did your kids like her?
- Was she always excited to see your kids?
- Did she have a routine when working with your kids?
- Is she flexible? (Consider getting a rating on a 1-5 scale for this question.)
- Is she mature? (Consider getting a rating on a 1-5 scale for this question.)
- Is she patient? (Consider getting a rating on a 1-5 scale for this question.)
- Is she timely? (Consider getting a rating on a 1-5 scale for this question.)
- Is she energetic? (Consider getting a rating on a 1-5 scale for this question.)
- Can you give me an example of quick thinking from Susie in an emergency?
- Did she drive your kids, do an overnight job for you or sit for a newborn?
- How did she do with these tasks?
- How much supervision did she need?
- How well did she follow direction?
- Was she willing to clean up after herself on the job?
- What areas could she improve in?
- Would you hire her again?
- Why did you stop working together?
- Is there anything else you would like to add?
- Can I contact you again if I have any more questions?
BEYOND THE BASIC ANSWERS
When doing a phone reference check, you don't have a lot to go by other than the person's voice and assurance on the phone. So ask YOURSELF a few questions:
1) Did the reference sound nervous?
2) Did they answer right away to their name?
3) Is anything not quite right?
For every 99 great babysitters, there is always one schlep who will use her college roommate for a reference ("What the he- oh, riiiight, yes, this IS Mrs. Former Employer..."), so use your gut to determine if anything seems odd.
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